/ 17 December 2009

Somali Islamists ban UN Mine Action

Somalia’s hard-line al-Shabaab insurgents said on Thursday they had banned the operations of United Nations Mine Action, accusing the organisation of ”disrupting peace and justice” among other offences.

The al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabaab said Mine Action, operating in southern Somalia, which is under its control, was paying the salaries of government police forces whom they are battling in the capital, Mogadishu.

”In addition to that, they have been attempting to disrupt peace and justice by bribing various community elders and inciting them to rebel against the Islamic administration,” the group said in a statement.

”Furthermore, they have been surveying and sign-posting some of the most vital and sensitive areas under the control of the Mujahideen,” it added.

Last month, the al-Shabaab imposed 11 new rules on aid groups in the south-central Bay and Bakol regions — the main humanitarian hubs.

Among the regulations were a ban on promoting democracy, firing all women workers, not taking Sundays off and removing all logos from the aid groups’ vehicles.

In July, the rebels said they had banned the activities of the UN Development Programme, UN Department of Safety and Security and the UN Political Office for Somalia.

Thursday’s statement also accused Mine Action of ”secretly hosting and undertaking the work of organisations that have previously been prohibited” by the militia.

Al-Shabaab will continue to monitor the foreign aid groups to ”protect the Muslims from any plots that may be against their religion, industries, safety, and health”, it added.

The UN does not have permanent foreign staff in war-ravaged Somalia and runs programmes from neighbouring Kenya.

Since plunging into cycles of violence with the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre, the Horn of Africa state has become one of the world’s most dangerous places for foreign workers. — Sapa-AFP